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What is Child-Centerd Play Therapy and How Can It Help


Karie Glide, LMSW

Child-Centered Play Therapy (CCPT) has been a huge part of my approach to working with kids.

It centers on the relationship between the therapist and the child as a foundation for change. Using CCPT, the therapist creates a space providing developmentally appropriate materials to facilitate play in a meaningful way.

Play is a child’s first language. It is a way for a child to express themself, engage with others, and explore when they are unable to fully communicate by talking about their thoughts and feelings. I believe children are resilient, unique, worthy of respect and capable of positive self-direction. And through meaningful play, children can attempt to organize their experience, gain a sense of control and learn coping skills they need to improve.

During CCPT, the therapist provides a space for the child to feel seen, heard, cared for and understood. My role as the therapist is to provide congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. This will look like a lot of reflecting and listening during sessions. By reflecting emotions and behavior, as well as empathizing, children learn to trust their inner direction, increase their self-understanding and build self-esteem.

The CCPT approach is used with children 3-10 years old for a variety of concerns. For example, when there is a disconnect between something the child is experiencing and what someone feels should be happening or concerns about abnormal development. These concerns might look like anger, anxiety, non-verbal communication or ADHD.

For a child with anxiety there is often a sense of worry, feeling unsafe and not being able to fully trust themselves or others. CCPT addresses these concerns by allowing a therapeutic relationship to create trust, reflection to grow an understanding of what worries look like, calm acceptance and predictable environments. CCPT can look permissible as it follows the child’s lead in exploring and expressing themselves. There are limits to keep the environment safe and consistent.

When I meet with families and we discuss using CCPT with the child, I encourage weekly 45-minute sessions. This is encouraged to maintain progress toward the identified goals. Another part of treatment expectation are parent consultation sessions, which are approximately every 6 weeks. This is where the therapist and parent/caregiver can meet to discuss progress and skills needed to continue supporting the child outside of sessions.

CCPT is an evidenced-based practice. It has been tested and researched to show improvements and favorable outcomes in children utilizing its interventions. If you would like to learn more or inquire about your child’s needs, please contact our office.

Karie Glide, LMSW is a staff  therapist at Child and Family Solutions Center. She works with children, teens, adults and families  She can be reached at 248-851-5437 and